Two For Tuesday – Middle Grade March

I was lucky enough to join a buddy read for ‘Julia and the Shark’ with some of my bookstagram buddies as part of ‘Middle Grade March’. Another book I am ashamed to say has been sitting on the shelf far too long. The only reason has been my mood reading, and this has just been a book that I have been in the mood for. However, that is a mistake of mood reading as I have missed out on a treat for quite some time.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave has brought such a fantastic book to the world, again, with ‘Julia and the Shark’. With the illustrations by Tom de Freston, you are immersed in the story from the moment you turn to page one. I, again, do not want to give any spoilers of the story here, as I feel everyone should read this as I did, without too much knowledge of the plot.

However, what I will say is that the author has tackled the important issue of mental health in this book, with incredible sensitivity, but in a way that should start conversations. I was so impressed with this aspect of the book and pleased to see that there would be younger readers aware of this issue, because it is something that should be in the public domain at all times, and I think we still hold back a little about it.

‘Leila and the Blue Fox’ was just as wonderful, and I had to pick it up as I had enjoyed ‘Julia and the Shark’ so much. This time, the deeper issue amongst the pages is immigration. As well as the need for families to move for a safer and better life – and the impact that this can have on those families. It is again tackled with sensitivity, with a parallel to the natural world (even challenging the fact that for animals we accept it, but sometimes we do not offer the same understanding for people), that will again encourage readers and their families to spark conversation and try to educate themselves.

Both books carry some similar themes. Kiran Millwood Hargrave draws so beautifully from the natural world (as she does in all her books), and uses it almost as another character to bring the stories to life and educate us about the human race too. The illustrations from Tom de Frestin are so beautifully vivid, yet delicate, and add to the whole reading experience.

With strong young female leads who can inspire readers with their strength against all odds, and slightly flawed parent figures, not really through any fault of their own, we see a fantastic study of family relationships and the importance of communication in families. This is a book that I would recommend to young readers and adults alike, because these two books have so much in them that so many of us could learn from.

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